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Mary Turner

Courtesy: University of Pennsylvania
HALL OF FAME CLASS IX: Dr. Mary Turner DePalma C'84
Courtesy: University of Pennsylvania  
Release:  05/01/2014

One of the “Founding Mothers” of the Women’s Track & Field program, Mary Turner was one of the program’s original recruits. She also happened to be one of the program’s first two NCAA qualifiers on the track, joining Riva Gensib at the 1982 Outdoor Championships where she ran the 800 (Gensib ran the 5,000). A letterwinner in cross country, as well, Turner helped the Quakers win the Big Five championship, take third at the EAIAW Regional meet, and earn a 17th-place finish at the AIAW National Championships her freshman year. On the track, Turner helped Penn finish first among the Ivy League teams at both the Indoor and Outdoor Heptagonal Games her senior year (the Quakers were second to Army overall in both meets). Given her status as an original member of the program, perhaps it’s not surprising that Turner set several records in the middle distances during her time here. What IS impressive is that 30 years after Turner’s graduation you could still find her name on the program’s top-10 lists in the indoor mile (eighth at the time of her induction) and the indoor 800 (ninth). She also was part of record-setting indoor and outdoor 4x800 relay teams in 1984; in both cases, the marks lasted 22 years, and they were still fourth all-time at the time of her induction.

“I have the honor of being Julio Piazza’s first recruit. What I never told Julio was that he didn’t have to call me back. Neither Julio nor Betty Costanza knew that my father had grown up in a relatively poor area just one mile north of the Art Museum. For someone growing up cognizant of the prestige, competitiveness, and aspiration associated with Penn’s world-class education -- well, that person would never consider any other option.
     “What I remember so clearly is that my first year at Penn was literally a spiritual event -- my teammates in the class of ’84, we prayed and prayed and prayed together. We prayed mostly that Columbia would show up so we’d have a remote chance of not being last in everything. Betty and Julio attached to every loss a basic pride in simply competing and doing our very best.
     “My sophomore year, we upset Princeton to place second in the league. How did Betty and Julio manage to turn the program around so completely in such a short period of time? They had recruited in their own image, surrounding themselves with athletes who had a passion to compete. The Class of ‘84 were workhorses. We showed up, rarely complained, and we did exactly what they told us to do. Our success was a result of their knowledge, strategy, and persistence in developing raw talent and desire. Mostly what I remember is not our race times or meet scores, but that we built something that we knew would last.
     “In the end, what Betty and Julio taught us was that being a Penn athlete meant that you would work hard, try your best, and dig deep. When you thought you had nothing more to give, they would ask you to reach for a little more. And they were right -- you found it! What a powerful expectation to send us out into the world with. And so we pay it forward. Our experience at Penn, surrounded by extraordinary people like Betty and Julio, will continue to profoundly influence generations to come. I will forever be deeply honored to be a member of the Penn community, the XC/Track & Field family, and an inductee into the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame.”

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